Friday, January 30, 2015

Vicarious Spirituality

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Is your spiritual experience firsthand or secondhand? There’s no doubt that we live very busy lives. We fill our calendars to the max, but if we look carefully, time with God is not an entry. And some Christ followers, regretfully, rather than carving out time to spend with the Lord, will listen to others who have spent time with Him and benefit from them. In a sense they’re saying, let them tell us what God is saying and what God is doing. After all, isn’t that what we pay the preacher for?

If that is your approach, if your’s is a vicarious spirituality, I’d like to throw out a little challenge to you: Do you do the same in other areas of your life?

You don’t do that with vacations, do you? 

You don’t do that with romance, do you?

You don’t let someone eat your meals for you, do you?

There are critical things in this life that you should be doing on your own behalf. And one of those is spending personal time with God.   

Come near to God and He will come near to you…Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up. James 4:8a, 10

Thursday, January 29, 2015

What’s In Your Wallet?

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Last night I watched a commercial on TV for the umpteenth time. You’ve probably seen it too, a famous personality looks directly into the camera and asks, “What’s in your wallet?” I know this may seem crazy to some of you, but that commercial sparked the thought for my eDevotion today. 

In my years of ministry, the number one question I’m asked about is God’s will. “Pastor Rick, how do I know God’s will for my life?” Or, “How do I know if this is God’s will for my life?” That is where the commercial comes in: What’s in your “heart”? What ignites you? Pay attention to the fire/passion in your heart.

Do you have a passion for orphans? Then care for them! Are you fired up to sing? Then sing! Are you stirred up to manage? Then manage! Do you ache for the ill? Then visit them; treat them! Are you passionate about the lost? Then reach them!

When I was a young Christ follower, I began to feel a “call” to preach/teach the Word of God. I went to my spiritual advisor, at that time, the President of West Coast Bible College, with my doubts. His wise counsel went like this, “Rick, don’t preach, unless you have to.” Taking his counsel to heart, I found the answer. I had to teach God’s Word otherwise, there was no peace in my heart.

What ignites you? What fires you up? What’s in your wallet?

Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!  1 Corinthians 9:16

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Pure Devotion

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

What was it that led two women named Mary to the tomb of Jesus? It doesn’t appear that their hearts were filled with hope of seeing Jesus alive. For sure, they weren’t expecting a visit from heavenly beings. So, what was it? I’d like to offer it was duty. Pure, unadulterated devotion. They went with strips of cloth and spices in hand to finish the work of wrapping the body of Jesus for His proper burial. What could they possibly expect in return? What could the corpse of Jesus offer them? The women find their way to the tomb of Jesus to give—pure and simple.

I can think of no motivation more noble than that. Service, stimulated by duty, with no expectation of return. You know what that sounds like to me? True discipleship! 

Their’s was a task that just needed to be done. I wonder if somewhere between their home and the tomb they didn’t stop for a moment and ask, “Why isn’t Peter doing this? Or James? Or John?” I wonder if they weren’t tempted to throw up their arms in frustration and say, “Why are we doing this? Shouldn’t Bartholomew be showing some leadership here!” 

I’m glad they didn’t quit. How tragic it would have been for them, mostly because we know something they didn’t know. They weren’t alone and unnoticed. And, as it is in most cases, in going to give, they receive!

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Cross Was Not an Accident

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Jesus was born to be crucified. When He came to consciousness of who He was, He also became aware of what He was to do. The cross was ever before Him [Hebrews 12:2]. Perhaps that explains why He was so determined to go to Jerusalem for the last time [Luke 9:51]. It also explains why He could say with complete confidence, “No one takes [My life] from Me, but I lay it down of Myself” [John 10:18]. 

The cross was not an accident. It wasn’t a knee-jerk response to a sin-sick world. Calvary wasn’t a tragic surprise that caught God off guard. It was His plan from the beginning, an incredible plan that would sanctify us “through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” [Hebrews 10:10]. 

So call it what you will: An act of grace. A display of love. A plan of redemption. A supreme sacrifice. But whatever you do, don’t call it an accident. It was anything but that!

Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure.” Then I said, “Behold, I have come—in the volume of the book it is written of Me—to do Your will, O God.” Hebrews 10:5-7

Monday, January 26, 2015

God-Size Disappointments

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

I once read a discussion among ancient Rabbis about expectations. It wasn’t long before it filtered down to two thoughts: 1, If we keep Torah, additional blessing follow, and 2, If we keep Torah, the blessing is that we have kept Torah.

Christ followers are like that too. Some say that I’m a child of God therefore, I’ll have a great marriage, a healthy reserve of funds, well-behaved children, and freedom from major problems, especially sickness.

The truth of the matter is that most of us are tilted toward the side of expecting blessing for our obedience. What happens when God fails to meet our expectations? Unfortunately for some, like the “Rich, Young Ruler” who went to Jesus, they go away sorrowfully. 

We are not alone when it comes to unfulfilled expectations. None other than John the Lutheran [I mean, Baptist], the forerunner of Jesus, struggled with unfulfilled expectations. His sermons were about a Messiah who would usher in a kingdom of power and justice, Instead, he languished in a dungeon on the Machaerus, a fortress/palace that Herod the Great had built on a mountain top in the blistering wilderness near the Dead Sea [in what is today the country of Jordan].

Jesus hardly met the Jewish expectation of a political leader who would crush the rule of Rome, send their army back to Italy, and set up His kingdom of righteousness and justice. And being unable to reconcile the contradiction, John cried out from his prison cell, “Are You the Expected One, or is it someone else?” [Matthew 11:3]

Life doesn’t always turn out as we would like. Some times things do turn around, but not in a timely fashion, so we think. When that happens, it can trigger a God-Size Disappointment. When we find ourselves most disappointed with God, is it God who has failed, or is it that our expectations about what God should do has failed us?

My encouragement for you today is to not assume that the Bible doesn’t “work” when things don’t go your way. God sees the “big picture” so we must come to grips with the limitation of our understanding. Stated another way, we must embrace the unlimited understanding of God and, as Paul said, “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” [1 Thessalonians 5:18]. 

Our inability to understand God should give cause to worship Him, not doubt Him. If His thoughts and ways were like ours, there would be no reason to worship Him. By the way, Jesus challenged John to consider his expectations. His gentle exhortation is good advice for us to: “And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me” [Matthew 11:6].

My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 [New Living Translation]

Friday, January 23, 2015

Advice from Zophar the Naamathite

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

I have been reading through Job again in my morning devotions. It’s gut wrenching to read about a righteous man going through such calamity. During his time of trouble, “friends” visited him to offer “comfort,” often in the form of advice. But since much of their counsel was about his supposed sinfulness [most of us don’t look at Job that way because God declared him a blameless and upright man 1:8], I have overlooked their exhortations. However, my attention was drawn this morning to something Zophar the Naamathite said:

Job 11:13-19

13  “If only you would surrender your heart 
and lift up your hands to him in prayer! 
14  Get rid of your sins, 
and leave all iniquity behind you. 
15  Then your face will brighten with innocence. 
You will be strong and free of fear. 
16  You will forget your misery; 
it will be like water flowing away. 
17  Your life will be brighter than the noonday. 
Even darkness will be as bright as morning. 
18  Having hope will give you courage. 
You will be protected and will rest in safety. 
19  You will lie down unafraid, 
and many will look to you for help. 

Even if that didn’t apply to Job, it is really good counsel for you and me. Within those seven verses, Zophar said there are things we can expect, if we do certain things. What should we do?

1. Surrender our hearts to God
2. Earnestly pray
3. Confess and forsake our sins

What can we expect?

1. You won’t be ashamed
2. You will be strong
3. Your fear will subside
4. Your misery will be like water under a bridge
5. Your darkness will be made light
6. You will have hope
7. You will be courageous
8. You will rest because you are protected

I’m not a Naamathite, but let me offer some advice. Write this verse on a card and put it in a place where you will see it throughout your week. Or, put is as a note on the desktop of your electronic devices. Let is serve as a reminder to surrender you heart to God, turn to Him in prayer, and confess and forsake your sins. If you do, you can expect the love of God to fill your heart, casting out anxiety and fear!

Where God’s love is, there is no fear, because God’s perfect love drives out fear. 1 John 4:18a

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Children of God Are Led by God

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, so you have to make things pretty simple if I am to understand them. So today, I’ve decided to have a simple talk with you about the Holy Spirit. The way many Christ followers talk about Him, you’d think that the Holy Spirit was nothing more than a powerful force, like in Star Wars: “May the Force be with you.” Or, “The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together” - Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Let me simplify: The Holy Spirit is God in you carrying out the work of Christ. Understanding the Holy Spirit is really that simple.

God is at work in you in three ways:

First, inwardly. He produces in you the Fruit of the Spirit - Galatians 5:22-24.

Second, upwardly. He prays for, or intercedes on your behalf - Romans 8:26.

Third, outwardly. He pours God’s love in your heart [Romans 5:5] so that you may be a witness for God - Acts 1:8.

If God, the Holy Spirit, is in you, you are His child. Let Him do His work. Then, it’s your turn. He leads, you obey!

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. Romans 8:14

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

In His Time

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Talk about near death experiences, the Bible is filled with them! But rather than seeing a “light” at the end, the biblical characters saw the hand of God at work. Their experiences give us hope and comfort in our times of trouble. 

There was Jonah, trapped in gastric juices and seaweed. He prayed and before the fish’s digestive system could do its final work, he was belched up on a sea shore. He must have been an awful sight, but he was alive nonetheless.

There was Daniel, whom I like to call a “happy meal” for hungry lions. The prospect of his longevity wasn’t any better than Jonah’s, but there he stood, alive, hungry lions notwithstanding. 

Poor Joseph, he was in a pit in the middle of a wilderness. A plan had developed that would lead to his death, but the plan changed in order for him to rescue the perpetrators. He ended up in a palace after a detour through servitude and prison. It was a God-thing.

Three Hebrew boys fared no better. Their strong faith landed them in a furnace. One old country preacher’s sermon about this was titled, “There’ll Be A Hot Time In the Old Town Tonight!” 

All these stories have one theme in common—Trapped: no exit, no hope, no options. BUT GOD…He’s the answer! Just in the nick of time, when the neck is exposed on the chopping block, when the noose is tightened around the neck, Calvary comes!

So at last the king gave orders for Daniel to be arrested and thrown into the den of lions. The king said to him, “May your God, whom you serve so faithfully, rescue you.”  Daniel 6:16

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Jesus Stooped Low to Show His Love

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Every time I read the account of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, my heart soars in appreciation of His love for them, and His love for me, too. In Jesus’ day, the job of washing feet was a task for the lowest of servants. There was a pecking order among household workers of His day, and the servants on the lowest rung of the ladder were expected to be on their knees with a basin of water and towel in hand. 

But in this case, the basin of water and towel were in the hands of the creator of the universe. Hands that shaped planets and stars, now washed aways layers of dirt from filthy feet. Fingers that sculpted mountains and valleys, now remove dirt from between toes. The one before whom every knee will bow, is now on His knees, disciple to disciple, just a few hours before His death, demonstrating His great love for them.

What a display of love! He did more than remove dirt that day, He removed all doubt of His love for them. And He loves you too!

Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? You think it is the one sitting at the table, right? But not here! For I am among you as one who serves. Luke 22.27

Monday, January 19, 2015

Faith and a Sling

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

In his little book, The Word or The World, Vance Havner wrote, “If you stand on the Word, you do not stand with the world.” That is a powerful statement in light of the challenges a Christ follower faces in life. From national issues like government-sanctioned abortions to personal, private matters like cheating on your income tax, it’s relatively easy to think that we are not accountable for doing the right thing every time.  

Furthermore, it sometimes seems we are stretched to the limit when standing alone with a desire to please God. It reminds me of David in a time when Israel was confronted by a giant obstacle—a real giant [see 1 Samuel 17]. Goliath wasn’t the only obstacle in David’s path. His brothers were an obstacle, questioning his presence in the war zone, and chiding him that he was merely a shepherd boy. Even King Saul was an obstacle, exhorting David that he didn’t have a chance to win a battle with such a formidable enemy. So standing alone, David went into action armed with faith and a sling. By the way, if you’re not familiar with the story, David was victorious!

I’m not suggesting that you will have physical victory in every confrontation you face but I can tell you this, God wants you to be faithful to Him regardless the outcome. Three Hebrew boys said it best when facing their demise in a fiery furnace: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up” [Daniel 3:16-18].

When you face opposition in your desire to please God, arm yourself with “faith and a sling,” and take your stand! 

We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-6a

Friday, January 16, 2015

Wisdom Isn’t Enough

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Solomon wrote the book on wisdom. He was exceptionally wise, but don’t think it was solely of his doing. Other than asking for it, his wisdom was a God-thing. “I have given you a wise and discerning heart,” God told Solomon, “so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you” [1 Kings 3:12]. Talk about exceptional!

It’s really too bad, then, that Solomon didn’t pay attention to his own words. Given that he literally wrote the book on wisdom, how could he have become so corrupted? How could he have behaved so foolishly? How could the man who built the dwelling place of God, the Temple in Jerusalem, get lured into idolatry [1 Kings 11:1-8]?

The answer is simple, but not simplistic — compromise. First, he formed a marriage alliance with Pharaoh, King of Egypt. I’m convinced he thought it would bring national security. It may have for a brief period of time, but it came at a high price. Secondly, his love for foreign [non-Jewish] women who didn’t know the God of Israel.

Yes, he was wise, so how did he miss it? Why didn’t he see it coming? So often he had written about dealing with sin when it is small, that is, before it flourishes. [See, for example: Proverbs 17:14; 24:33-34; Ecclesiastes 10:18]. In other words, he should have foreseen the danger of the little exceptions that would grow beyond what even he could control.

Wisdom can’t out-think the consequences of compromise. The crack in Solomon’s heart would eventually destroy the Temple and deport an entire nation to foreign lands. And it all began with compromises ignored.

Wisdom isn’t enough. We must add to it obedience.

But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Powerful Invitation

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

“The Lord’s Prayer.” You’ve probably repeated it many times in your Christian life. Is it possible that the words have become so familiar that you miss the powerful invitation? What invitation is that, you ask? THY KINGDOM COME. 

When you say those words, you are inviting the all-powerful King into your world. It’s humbly bowing before Him with this request, COME MY KING! You’re imploring Him to set up His throne in your land. You’re petitioning Him to be the ruler of your heart. You’re requesting that He be the Lord of your marriage, family and relationships. You’re bowing to His sovereignty over your fears, foibles, and failures. This is a bold invitation for the King of the kingdom to reign over every detail of your life.

You may be asking, who am I to ask such a thing? If you are a Christ follower, you are His child! So ask Him boldly!

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4:16

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

So You Want to be Holy?

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

As a Christ follower, I want to be holy. I bet you do too, right? Typically, we think of holy in terms of righteousness. In other words saintly, godly, pious, devout. In the biblical languages, the word holy means, to separate. The etymology of holy can be traced to words, which mean, to cut. Think of it as a cut above. God is holy in that He is separate, a cut above, all that He has created. 

When you live a holy life, those around you will see it and hear it. Holy living will make a difference in the world. There was a time in history when men thought being holy [separate] meant to isolate yourself from the world, so they lived in monasteries. Their holiness was not visible other than their clothing and poverty. 

I’m suggesting that our holiness be lived out for all to see. Holiness is not something you put on for Sunday morning worship when you are isolated from the world. Let your holiness be seen; you are a witness for Christ. In that sense, holiness is very practical. Since you are a cut above…

Be faithful to your spouse
Be the one who refuses to cheat
Be a neighborly neighbor
Be the one who works without complaint
Be the one who pays what you owe
Be joyful in spite of the difficulties in life
Be the one whose walk matches his talk

The world is watching and listening. Be holy!

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Power of Prayer

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Before modern-day, electronically controlled engines, our automobiles needed regular “tune ups.” New plugs, points, condenser, and timing adjustment. The purpose of the tune up was to to keep the engine running smoothly and powerfully. Prayer is like that too. We need tune ups from time to time.

Sometimes our prayers lack consistency. It’s feast or famine; desert or oasis. For some, it’s a dry season, briefly interrupted by a refreshing rain of fellowship with God.

Sometimes our prayers lack sincerity. Those prayers are rigid, hollow, memorized, dull, vacuous. Even when prayed daily, they are more liturgical than life-like. 

Sometimes our prayers lack honesty. In our hearts, there is a debate as to if our prayers really make a difference. Or perhaps we question whether or not the God in heaven even listens. Or we reckon that since He knows and controls everything, what difference does my prayer make anyway.

Sometimes our prayers seem awkward and feeble.  

Sometimes our prayers are lackluster, unimaginative, dull, or as kids say today, “Boring!”

It’s a good thing that prayer isn’t about us, it’s about God. The power of prayer is not in the one speaking, but in the One hearing. And that makes all the difference in the world!

We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but he is ready to hear those who worship him and do his will. John 9.31

Monday, January 12, 2015

Keep Growing Up

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

I once read about a little boy who fell out of his bed one night. His Mother came to the room and, after drying his tears, asked him what happened. “I guess I just got too close to where I got in,” he responded. 

We could use the boy’s answer to talk about our faith. Many Christ followers merely stay near where they “got in” and don’t go on toward maturity. It’s really sad when you think about it. 

I have an idea, a little exercise to help evaluate your spiritual growth. Think of a time in the not too distant past, say, a year, two at the most. Have you got it fixed in your mind? OK, now ask yourself a few questions such as:

How does my prayer life compare to then? Am I spending more or less time with God?

How about giving of my time, talent and treasure? Has the amount and joy of giving increased?

How about loyalty to my fellow Christ followers? Can they count on me? Am I faithful in my communion with them?

What about Bible study? Am I getting into it? Am I learning to learn?

The little boy in our story made a simple mistake of staying too close to where he got in. Let’s not make the same mistake! Resting on the edge is risky business.

Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity… Hebrews 6:1a

Friday, January 9, 2015

Life-long Residence

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

If you are looking for a place to rest your soul, look no further than the House of God. David knew that was true. Listen to the longing of his heart when he wrote, “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek Him in His temple. For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His tabernacle and set me high upon a rock” [Psalm 27:4-5].

My heart longs for many things, how about yours? If you could ask God for one thing, what would it be? I doubt seriously that my “one thing” would be what David asked for—life-long residence in the House of God! Perhaps that’s one of the reasons it was said of him that he was a man of God’s own heart [see 1 Samuel 13:14]. 

David, unlike me, wanted to live in the House of the Lord. Let’s “flesh that out a little bit,” a phrase one of my Bible College professors was fond of saying. David wasn’t interested in merely having an afternoon chat or evening meal in the Sanctuary. His desire wasn’t for an over-nighter or a weekender. He didn’t want a temporary room to rent. He wanted to move in—life-long residence. 

An old hymn from 1903 says it well…

There is a place of quiet rest,
  Near to the heart of God,
A place where sin cannot molest,
  Near to the heart of God.

There is a place of comfort sweet,
  Near to the heart of God,
A place where we our Savior meet,
  Near to the heart of God.

There is a place of full release,
  Near to the heart of God,
A place where all is joy and peace,
  Near to the heart of God.
[Near to the Heart of God, Words & Music: Cle­land B. Mc­A­fee, 1903]

I love your sanctuary, LORD, the place where your glorious presence dwells. Don’t let me suffer the fate of sinners. Don’t condemn me along with murderers. Their hands are dirty with evil schemes, and they constantly take bribes. But I am not like that; I live with integrity. So redeem me and show me mercy. Now I stand on solid ground, and I will publicly praise the LORD. Psalm 26:8-12

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Our Compassionate Christ

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

On a certain day, Jesus went from one “sea” to another. He stepped off a boat on the shore of the Sea of Galilee into a Sea of Humanity. What we must keep in mind is that on this occasion, Jesus had crossed Galilee to escape the crowds of people surrounding Him. He needed a little R & R. He needed anything except to get right back into His teaching and healing ministry. But Jesus had compassion on them, and His love for them overcame His need for rest. 

I’ve often thought of the many people that Jesus “touched” during His earthly ministry. We have no biblical record that a “Thank You” was offered for their healing, but He went right ahead and healed them anyway. It appears most of those He healed were more concerned with being healthy than holy, but He healed them anyway. Many of those who cried out for bread on that day would cry out for His blood in a short time, but He fed them anyway. A vast majority who listened to His words would soon reject His teaching, but He taught them anyway. Jesus was moved by His compassion on them. He has compassion for you and me too!

Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. Mark 6:34 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

What’s the Difference?

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

What’s the difference between Sunday and Thursday? No, this is not the beginning of a joke, I’m serious. What’s the difference? Or Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday or Saturday for that matter? I expect to be in God’s presence on Sunday, but why not any other day? What’s the difference?

What’s the difference between the Communion Table and a dinner table? Again, no joke. What’s the difference? I long to worship God in taking what we affectionately call, The Lord’s Supper. Is it possible to worship Him when I “take” my dear Janet’s supper? 

I wonder if this is why Paul talked so much about continuous prayer? Prayer is definitely a way to be in the presence of God, to fellowship with God, to commune with God, to interact with God. That’s why Paul could tell the Philippian Christ followers in part to “… pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done” [Philippians 4:6]. If we were to do this, we just might accomplish the lofty goal Paul set before the Corinthian Christ followers in part to capture every “rebellious thought and teach them to obey Christ” [2 Corinthians 10:5]. 

To be in prayer is a way to be heavenly minded. Let’s do that, dear Christ follower. Let’s be “constant in prayer” [Romans 12:12]. Let’s “pray without ceasing” [1 Thessalonians 5:17]. Let’s be engaged with God. When we do that, we’ll have an answer for our question, what’s the difference? Answer: There is no difference!

Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Colossians 4:2 - New Living Translation

Monday, January 5, 2015

Just A Passin’ Through

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

I am a proud citizen of the United States of America. I call it my “home, sweet, home.” However, the U.S. is not the only place I hold citizenship. According to the Bible, I am a citizen of heaven, and I couldn’t be prouder. There is a tension in that because, although my body resides here, my heart longs for there.

It has been said of some Christ followers that they are so heavenly minded, they are of no earthly good. I’ve never met anyone who is like that, but I can understand why some non-believing people would think that way. Perhaps they’ve met those Christ followers who are living out the words of the old Black spiritual, “this world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through.”

Paul wrote to the Philippian Christ followers about it. He said, “Our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” [Philippians 3:20]. He wrote to the Colossian Christ followers about it. He advised them to, “…set your affections on things above, not on the things of earth” [a partial quote from Colossians 3:1-2]. Our devotion and desire should center there, and then our actions reflect it down here. In other words, we should live with heavenly priorities, not earthly indulgences.

It isn’t easy to live in a sin-sick world and not be corrupted by it, but it can be done. God has not abandoned us without help. He has, according to the apostle Peter, “…given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence” [2 Peter 1:3].  I like to think of it this way, God extends to us the rights and privileges of heavenly citizenship—divine resources—to help keep us from being distracted by the elemental things of this world.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Ephesians 1:3

Friday, January 2, 2015

Becoming Who You Are

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

When my children were growing up, they asked a lot of “What ifs…What if this happens? What if that happens?” It got weary at times, but hey, inquiring minds want to know! I have a “What if” question for you. What if God stamped “I’m a child of God, watch me!” on your forehead the day you became a Christ follower? Would it change anything about the way you conduct your life?

Of course that doesn’t happen to any Christ follower, but in reality we do bear the name of Christ in this world. We are CHRISTIANS—His very CHILDREN! He adopted us into His family [Galatians 4:5], and has given us every spiritual blessing [Ephesians 1:3]. Being a child of God comes with some fantastic entitlements, distinctions, and privileges. I, for one, want to walk worthy of His name. When I was growing up, my Dad had one of those “talks” with me. He said, “Your name is Rickey Hill. Don’t do anything that brings disrespect to that name.” How much more so of Christ’s!

One of my Bible College professors was fond of saying, “The whole of your Christian life is this: Become who you are.” I took that to mean, you’re a child of God, act like one, and don’t bring any disrespect to that name!

Paul told the Ephesian Christ followers to “…walk worthy of the calling…” [Ephesians 4:1]. The word worthy here, is a word of balance/equalization—harmony. In other words, who you are and how you live must be harmonious. We have a colloquial phrase for that: Walk the talk. I prefer it this way: match your conduct with the Gospel. The exalted Gospel demands an exalted lifestyle. 

Happy 2015!

Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Philippians 1:27

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Dwelling Place

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

It snowed in our little town of Julian, California yesterday. It was crazy busy with people coming up to frolic in the Winter Wonderland. By mid-afternoon, I received several eMails from friends wanting to know if I knew anyone who would rent their home, or cabin, for the weekend.

That got me to thinking about our dwelling place. Did you know that God wants to be your dwelling place? By the way, He isn’t interested in being a weekender. You know what I mean, don’t you? He isn’t merely a place for you to run around and have fun on the weekend. Furthermore, He wants to be more than your summer cottage, winter bungalow, or retirement home. He desires to be your permanent dwelling place. 

Is that a new thought to you? Perhaps you’ve thought of God as something interesting to talk about over a cup of coffee, but not a home. Maybe you think of Him like Aristotle; God is the Unmoved Mover. Unfortunately, Aristotle’s god was unknowable to his creation an unknown by him. For all intents and purposes, that’s pragmatic atheism. No dwelling place there!

One of the great things that God has revealed to us in the pages of the Bible is that He is not only the Creator of the cosmos, but also Home to His children. Like Paul said, in Him “we live and move and have our being” [Acts 17:28].

Jesus replied, “If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. John 14:23